Groveport Madison High School football coach Tim Brown believes his team will learn from its opener.

Groveport Madison High School football coach Tim Brown believes his team will learn from its opener.

The Cruisers, who lost to visiting Westerville South 55-14 on Aug. 24, travel to Olentangy Orange on Friday, Aug. 31.

"When you have a young, rebuilding team, sometimes little things become big things," Brown said. "The guys are rebounding well, though. They're back at it and working hard. They have some material to work from now.

"You have to be realistic when you're young and inexperienced. You have to be under the lights to see what it's really like. They see the little things make a big difference. Sometimes (the) effort was great, but maybe we had a little bit of a bad angle or we had a missed assignment. They're coachable and they had a great attitude (Aug. 25) and worked hard. They weren't trying to blame anyone else."

One positive was a 65-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Mecca Swain, who finished with 45 yards on nine carries. He also completed a 90-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Markel Davis.

Orange lost to visiting Olentangy Liberty 43-21 in its opener Aug. 24. The Pioneers had four turnovers, squandered a 21-6 lead and allowed 416 total yards, including 298 passing and 79 rushing by Liberty quarterback Joey Longhino.

Orange quarterback Kofi Hill was 8-for-17 passing for 164 yards, two interceptions and a 22-yard touchdown pass to running back Larry Rode and rushed for two scores (7 and 14 yards). Fullback Mike Forbes led the Pioneers with 79 yards rushing on 13 carries.

"They're a little inexperienced as well," Brown said of the Pioneers, who returned five starters from last season when they went 8-3 and reached the Division I playoffs. "They're kind of in the same boat we are. They had a tough opponent.

"Looking at them, they made some small errors that resulted into a big margin as well."

The contest marks the Cruisers' first meeting with Orange. Groveport travels to Walnut Ridge on Sept. 7 before beginning OCC-Ohio Division play Sept. 14 at Gahanna.

"We have a very difficult schedule, but if you're going to try to get to the playoffs, you have to be prepared when you get there," Brown said. "Our schedule will definitely do that. We have nine games (remaining) and we think if we can win seven out of the nine, we can get to the playoffs."

Cross country teams low in numbers

Third-year cross country coach Jason Brooks did not field a full lineup for his boys or girls teams in the first three meets this season, but he has some quality runners.

The boys team features a pair of seniors who Brooks expects to be competitive in Ariel Pichardo and Eddie Wilson.

"They're good runners," Brooks said. "Their background is in sprinting, so it's a big change going from sprinting to cross country. They've responded really well. They're ranked in the region and they have a good chance of making the (Division I) regional (meet) and possibly the state meet."

Others expected to contribute include junior Zandor Wright and sophomore Mike Sweatt.

"Zandor's a wrestler and his main purpose is to cut weight to get down to 126," Brooks said. "He's a good runner. He runs under 20 minutes and he's a really dedicated kid.

"I got Mike a couple years ago and he could barely run a race. Now he's down to about 25 minutes. He's made a 5-minute improvement, so he's getting better."

Others expected to contribute soon are senior Wesley Walker and freshman Ryan Cundiff.

With only four runners, Groveport competed in the open 1 race of the OHSAA Preseason Invitational on Aug. 18 at National Trail Raceway.

Pichardo placed seventh of 175 runners in 18 minutes, 3.26 seconds and Wilson finished ninth (18:07.53).

Pichardo (17:34.91) and Wilson (17:37.10) finished ninth and 10th, respectively, in the Hamilton Township Invitational on Aug. 21 and Pichardo (17:56) won the Whitehall Invitational on Aug. 25.

Last season, Groveport finished eighth (208 points) in the OCC-Ohio meet, behind Pickerington North (58), Reynoldsburg (64), Lancaster (71), Newark (105), Gahanna (109), Pickerington Central (113) and Grove City (187).

The Cruisers finished 14th (417) of 16 teams in the Division I, district 3 meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion Dublin Coffman (58) as the top six teams and top 24 individuals advanced to regional at Pickerington North.

Pichardo led Groveport, finishing 55th in 18:28. Cameron Jones, a 2012 graduate, finished 72nd (18:59.54) and Wilson was 86th (19:57.24).

"The OCC-Ohio is one of the toughest cross country divisions in the entire state," Brooks said. "We've had guys who have won state in our conference. It's been tough.

"Ariel finished in the top (55) at districts last year and I'm looking for him to make regionals this year, and I think Eddie can make it. They're usually together and I'm hoping I can get them in the mid-16s."

The girls team has just two runners in sophomores Priscilla Dotson and Taylor Moore.

Moore finished 127th (27:02.94) in the open 1 race of the OHSAA Preseason Invitational and Dotson was 135th (27:27.56).

The pair finished 27th and 30th, respectively, in the Whitehall Invitational, Brooks said.

"They're a little like Eddie and Ariel," Brooks said. "They run together and train together. They're best friends and they tend to finish together. They're not the types of runners who get out really fast. They set their own pace.

"They're sophomores and they're feeling their way through this year. I expect them to be in the low 20s by the end of the year. I'm looking for them to improve this year and maybe compete for regionals."

Last season, the Cruisers finished eighth (212) in the OCC-Ohio, behind Gahanna (49), Pickerington North (51), Lancaster (81), Pickerington Central (89), Reynoldsburg (127), Grove City (153) and Newark (191).

Groveport had only four runners compete in the Division I, district 1 meet at Watkins Memorial, one short of qualifying for a team score.

Dotson finished 71st (27:07.09) of 81 runners and Moore was 73rd (28:09) as the top 20 individuals advanced to regional.